I have a serious case of wanderlust. Travel has been my passion for several decades and during that time I have been to numerous cities in 25 different countries. Travel has enriched my life on so many levels. I have developed a deep appreciation for other cultures – and a deeper appreciation for my own. I’ve learned that no matter where I go, people are just people; and we are more alike than we are different. I have especially enjoyed making people-to-people connections. Some have been brief encounters while others have developed into lifelong friendships. Here are just a few of my “global connections”.
In 1984 I traveled with a choral ensemble to Ecuador to participate in an international choir competition. In Guayaquil I met a lady named Gladys, who was a member of another choir. We were drawn to each other, probably because we looked a lot alike. Although I could only speak a little Spanish (muy poquito), and she spoke even less English, we made a sister connection. Between some very animated sign language and my poorly conjugated Spanish verbs, we managed to communicate.
In 2005 our family took a Mediterranean cruise and Santorini, Greece was one of the ports of call. I’d seen pictures of those whitewashed buildings with the azure rooftops, but they were even more spectacular in person. We spent a lovely day strolling through the charming shops of Fira town. Santorini is known for beautiful jewelry, and there are lots of jewelry shops to choose from. We wandered in and out of several, but were drawn to one in particular. It was run by a family; parents and two identical twin sons. It was a pleasant experience (no hard sell), just like visiting with old friends. The father even offered us some of his homemade wine and it was delicious. We made several purchases and went on our way. In 2007 we returned to Santorini and paid another visit to our friends. We have continued to stay in touch and hope to see them again next time we’re on the island.
In 2010 the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in Iceland. It was notable because the volcanic ash plume disrupted air travel in northern Europe for several weeks. The eruption occurred 3 days before we were scheduled to depart on a cruise that was going to sail from Lisbon, Portugal to Oslo, Norway. However, many flights were cancelled since most of the major European airports had to close. As it turned out, the Lisbon airport did not close, so we were able to make it to the cruise ship. But many of the other cruisers did not make it. So the cruise ship was only 1/3rd full. That meant that the crew had fewer passengers to serve. The dining room was very sparse at dinner and there were lots of empty tables. It worked in our favor because our waiters were especially attentive. We got to know them well since they had lots of extra time on their hands. They told us all about their homelands, families, and future plans. Both were fairly young (about our son’s age) – and homesick, so they also enjoyed a little parental advice.
In 2014 we spent some time in one of our favorite cities, Paris. One afternoon we discovered a little cafe near the Montparnasse Tower. We sat outside to enjoy the lovely spring weather and struck up a conversation with a young lady at a nearby table. We don’t speak much French, so it was nice to chat with someone else who spoke English. She was a student who had spent several months studying there. We exchanged travel stories and contact information. We’ve stayed connected on Facebook, and hope to meet again – maybe in Paris.
During a transatlantic cruise we made friends with 2 wonderful people from the U.K. We started chatting over drinks one evening and found out that we had lots in common. Even though we were from different countries we found that we shared many of the same opinions and challenges. We exchanged contact information and promised to host them if they ever came to San Francisco. A few months later Kev took us up on that promise and we had a great time hosting him in our City by the Bay.
In 2014 we also spent time in another of our favorite cities, Barcelona. Since we had been there several times before we decided to leave the city and go out to the Penedes Wine region. It was a group tour and they took us to several delightful wineries. At each one we enjoyed tasting and delicious tapas. Our group was comprised of 15 people who were from various parts of the world. 3 of the ladies were from Osaka, Japan. I don’t speak any Japanese but one of them spoke a little English, so with the help of a few glasses of wine and some very animated sign language we managed to communicate. Kaori and I exchanged contact information and we have stayed in contact on Facebook. Of course her posts are in Japanese and mine are in English, but pictures transcend language barriers.
As I write this I am already planning my next adventure, and looking forward to making more travel connections.